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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 8803

Renewable Energy

Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (14:44): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Innovation, Senator Lundy. Three wind farm developments in South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria are about to sign contracts with Chinese owned companies to supply the towers—meaning each tower and turbine, including blades, will be made from wholly imported parts and only assembled here. These very companies have recently had dumping duties of some 70 per cent imposed on them in the United States, although no such duties apply in Australia. Can the minister describe how these developments are contributing to Australian manufacturing industry? Are there any requirements on companies receiving Australian taxpayer support or subsidies to support Australian industry, as occurs in a number of other countries, including the United States and Canada? Is it appropriate that below-cost products are putting Australian manufacturers out of business?

Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital TerritoryMinister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Sport) (14:45): Before I answer, I think it is important to clarify that the maximum duty in the US on these imports is 70 per cent but some of the duties are just over 30 per cent. That said, the Gillard government are committed to ensuring Australia's economy delivers jobs and growth for the future. That is why we have comprehensive policies to maximise the opportunity for Australian industry to participate in major projects.

In July, the government implemented significant changes to strengthen the Commonwealth's approach to Australian industry participation. As part of these reforms, the government will apply Australian Industry Participation Plans requirements to large government grants over $20 million. Since the senator has not specified which developments he is referring to, I cannot confirm that these particular projects have been required to complete these AIP Plans, ensuring Australian industry has full and fair access to contracts as part of the developments. But I can assure the senator that if these projects have received $20 million or more federal government support, they will have been required to complete such AIP Plans. In addition, these reforms further tighten administration of the Enhanced Project By-law Scheme, or EPBS, and require publication of the Australian Industry Participation Plans and outcomes.

These changes will improve the opportunities for Australian manufacturers, construction firms and service providers to win contracts on major projects. It is well-known that Australian manufacturing is under severe pressure at the moment, largely due to the strength of the Australian dollar. That is why the government has pursued and continues to pursue fundamental economic reforms. I would like to assure the senator that we are working to ensure Australian industry, including the renewable energy sector, has a bright, high-wage, high-skilled future in the Asian century.

Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (14:47): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister, perhaps on notice, advise whether the $20 million target threshold actually applies to renewable energy credits as part of the RET scheme? Also, can the minister comment on the closure recently of wind tower and steel fabricator specialist, RPG, where 150 jobs were lost? Has any analysis been done of jobs created in manufacturing and funding for the renewable energy sector?

Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital TerritoryMinister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Sport) (14:47): We are, of course, very concerned about any job loss. That is why we are committed to building a clean energy future. A price on carbon will and is driving investments in the renewable energy sector. This transformation of our energy sector supported by the Renewable Energy Target will drive around $100 billion of investments in the renewable sector over the period to 2020. We are supporting this investment through a range of initiatives, including the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation and $3.2 billion Australian Renewable Energy Agency. The government are also committed to ensuring local companies have maximum opportunities. I have already mentioned the Australian Industry Participation Plans. As we create this clean energy future, jobs will continue to grow. Treasury modelling shows that by 2020 some 1.6 million jobs will be created under a carbon price.

Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (14:48): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. The Prime Minister recently opened the Tindo Solar panel manufacturing plant in South Australia, saying that Tindo shows our future as a high-skilled, high-wage, high-innovation economy. Is the minister aware that Tindo is currently battling against cheap, dumped solar panels from China? Can the minister provide any information on how the government will support Tindo in the context of the recent US government decision to impose dumping duty on panels imported from China?

Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital TerritoryMinister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Sport) (14:49): As the senator knows, the Gillard government are making the most important improvements to Australia's antidumping regime in more than a decade. Last year, we announced a package of improvements to Australia's antidumping regime and the changes are improving access to the antidumping system for businesses and the timeliness and quality of decision making. The improvements include increasing Customs staff working on antidumping by 45 per cent and increasing funding to hire experts and to assist Australian manufacturers in lodging applications for remedies against injurious dumping or subsidisation. These reforms also included establishing an International Trade Remedies Forum to provide advice on options for further improvements. Our practices stand up well to international comparison. For instance, prescribed investigation times are significantly lower in Australia—155 days—than the US, where it is 280 days, or in the EU— (Time expired)